Where did this UK southern metal scene come from? More and more bands are employing a meaty groove to their metal making them sound like America’s finest (i.e. bands like Kyuss and Goatsnake). However, Mage and their debut album Black Sands does not come from America; it was born and bred in Leicester but you could’ve easily fooled us.
Mage’s groovy, desert metal sounds absolutely massive. Songs are built around huge, bludgeoning riffs that will lodge themselves into your mind and stay for days. Guitarists Ben and Woody do an amazing job of throwing their most memorable riffs at you over the course of these 10 tracks. The songs generally build to a crescendo which is punctuated with an impressive solo. This really is the stuff headbangers’ dreams are made of.
Also doing a rather fantastic job is vocalist Tom who’s enormous, booming, half-sung, half-yelled vocals give this album its’ biggest draw. The vocals on Black Sands are so brilliantly executed that it really only takes a single listen for the lyrics to stick with you. You can actually picture yourself in the audience at a Mage show, bellowing all the words back at the band accompanied with a beer in one hand.
Black Sands really is a stunning debut album and the collection of songs on this CD are catchy and superbly written. It’s also brilliantly presented with some amazing production and a great mix that makes each instrument beautifully clear. You can really appreciate the work on display here. The only real downside to the album is that Mage’s song-writing does become a bit predictable.
As mentioned earlier, the songs are built around one huge riff and are tailored to make this riff stand out the most. Unfortunately this doesn’t always work in Mage’s favour. Every song on Black Sands follows the same formula and by the album’s halfway point you feel like you know exactly what is coming next and the second half of the album does very little to prove you wrong. A few surprises, even something as simple as a change of tempo could have really made Black Sands an essential metal release.
This is not to say that Black Sands is a bad album; it isn’t. In fact, it’s a very good album bogged down with a bit of repetition. The riffs are huge and the vocals are catchy; it really has all the elements of an album that will stick with you for years, but repeated listens might get a bit boring.
Mage’s Black Sands can be bought on limited edition digipak CD now from Witch Hunter Records.